Do you believe in monsters? I do, though not the ones you can find in myths, legends and fairy tales. The real world is where the monsters are… monsters, fighting for power….
Have you seen Andrei Zvyagintsev’s new film “Leviathan”? The film is set in Russia’s desolate north. The main character, Nikolai, is a soulful car mechanic who lives in a wooden house by the Barents Sea with his frustrated wife and a depressed teenage son from an earlier marriage.
His house and land are being taken from him by the state, represented here by a drunken and corrupt mayor who is closely advised by an Orthodox priest. Nikolai’s friend, a lawyer, travels from Moscow to help him fight the mayor. But that only leads to more disasters.
In the end, Nikolai loses his wife, his freedom and his house, which, in a final twist, is bulldozed to make space for a new church that is inaugurated by the mayor and the priest, who preaches about patriotism and love for the Russian state…
As the Economist points out, “Leviathan” may not break new artistic ground, but it has a lot to say about life in Russia.
Rarely has an art film evoked such fierce debate. It has been denigrated as heresy and slander by supporters of the state and the church, and praised by liberals who recognise its truths.
As noted by the Economist, a few days before the film was released in Russia, Kirill, the patriarch of the Orthodox church, took to the floor of the Duma (the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia). He praised the Soviet era for breeding “solidarity” in people and lashed out at the depravity of the West.
Zvyagintsev however clearly intended this film as a parable for modern human-kind, not just Russians. This movie is about the corruption and collusion of elites everywhere to exploit and abuse “the little people”.
As Frank Vogl points out in his book “Waging War on Corruption: Inside the Movement Fighting the Abuse of Power”, “Corruption is not a single event, but a continuum, perpetrated day in and day out against citizens by crooked politicians and civil servants who enjoy the position of power… Corruption is a political, social, and economic issue of global proportions. Today, as never before, it is a major cause of the global crises of poverty, human rights, justice, and security. It impacts us all….”
While many live in denial, like the proverbial ostrich, or think that corruption is “just a way of life”, every society, sector and individual would benefit from saying “NO” to this crime. We all can:
- Raise awareness
- Engage the youth about what ethical behavior is and what corruption is.
- Report incidents of corruption
- Refuse to participate in any activities that are not legal and transparent